guest posts

Packing a nutritionally dense bento box for the active person

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This health-conscious guest post is by Debra of the fabulous hapa bento. We are entering the heavy duty feasting season now, so now is a good a time as ever to use nutritional bentos to keep yourself going!

The classic bento box with its proportioned rice, protein and vegetable combination is a balance of taste, harmony of flavors, and prepared to keep spoilage to a minimum. Another dimension of this classic lunch is nutrition. The rice provides carbohydrates, and carbs are arguably the most important source of energy. The protein keeps your muscles in repair, vegetables offer crucial vitamins that nourish your organs, and lastly but just as vital, some fats. More about the value of fats a little later. A bento box lunch is designed to offer sustenance.

But what if you need more? What if you are an active person and need to turn it up a notch? Well, a nutritionally dense bento box may be your answer. continue reading...

Fun with sweet mochi and fruit "sushi"

To start off the weekend, here is a fun guest post from Jen of Tiny Urban Kitchen, about making sushi that is not exactly what it seems to be!

This is not what you might think it is. Yes, it looks like sushi - almost too similar. But guess what? It’s mochi! It’s mochi with various fruit pieces posing as fish.

Mochi is surprisingly easy to make. You can actually make this dessert with kids, it’s so easy and fun. The nigiri are especially easy - just cut up various fruits into squares to put on top. Rolls are a bit trickier, but not impossible. continue reading...

Bento: The Magical Bond for Parents and Children

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Two hungry kids tackle their bento lunch (Note: They’re not Linda’s kids, they are related to Maki :)) (Photo: Michiko Ebina)

This is a guest post by Linda Rolle, a Japanese-American mom to twins and co-owner of the online stores True Renu and True Renu International.

When our twins were born, we made all sorts of promises to ourselves about how we’d like to raise them. One of those wishes was to share with them our love and appreciation for good food, as my husband and I both come from a family of chefs and restaurateurs. For example, their first solid foods included miso soup, tofu, edamame and Weißwurst (a mild German veal sausage). To this day, they will choose edamame over chips, and tofu over just about everything.

When they entered preschool, we needed a way to continue feeding them in ways they would enjoy, while still (subtly!) hammering home the concepts of choice - and balance. Bento was the obvious solution. Having to prepare two lunches each weekday while running a business has forced me to be more resourceful, and plan meals more efficiently. But in so doing, I’ve also learned an even greater lesson; that the Bento is far more than a packed lunch. It has become a treasured link between me and my children as well as one of my most rewarding responsibilities as a parent. continue reading...

Teaching my sister to make bentos to help deal with her hypoglycemia

This is a guest post by Nicole of Discojing. She tells us how she taught her sister to make bento lunches for herself to help to cope with hypoglycemia. What a great sister!

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Diseases that involve blood sugar often creep up on you. It wasn’t until my mother was older and my younger sister and I were well into our teens that we were exposed to hypoglycemia and Type II Diabetes. Type II Diabetes is a growing epidemic in the world, and most people don’t know that it’s actually preventable. My mother’s poor diet habits led her hypoglycemia to develop into Type II Diabetes. My sister and I both have hypoglycemia and are in trying to keep Diabetes at bay. Unfortunately, in a culture that advertises unhealthy and fast food at the same time as a thin=attractive mentality, it is hard to win this war.

By eating a well-balanced diet and eating when your body tells you to (whether this is three, four, or five times a day), great strides can be taken to eliminate the risk of developing Diabetes. I am currently in the process of helping my sister understand not only her disease and its risks, but also valuable life skills such as cooking and budgeting. My sister is just starting college and she needs to be able to budget the adequate time and money needed to planning her meals, as well as understanding what types of food she should and shouldn’t eat. I think bento does a great job of meeting all these requirements because it’s fun, transportable, environmentally friendly, economical, and is a medium for learning. continue reading...

Sarah's Take On Mabo Dofu, A Classic Tofu and Meat Dish

This is a guest post from Sarah of Get Cooking, who’s back to share another great frugal recipe with us.

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Aonori seaweed isn’t a common garnish for mabo dofu but some people in my house like it that way.

I know this might be looking a bit too decadent to any lover of authentic Mabo Dofu, but, well, no Japanese dish stays very authentic in my hands for too long. Mabo Dofu, an originally Chinese dish popular in Japan, is meat (beef in this case) and tofu simmered in a red miso-ginger-garlic-chili sauce. Over the years, it has become a staple in my household. Like everything else I make regularly, the recipe changes slightly each time depending on what ingredients and condiments we have around.

The more I make and eat mabo dofu, the more I love it. I used to use sauce packets that you can find in many Asian groceries, but then I realized how much more easy, cheap, and tasty it was to make the sauce myself. While the list of ingredients looks long, it’s a very simple dish to prepare. After you have it once, you may even start adding some of the main ingredients to your fridge and pantry staples. Before this dish entered my life, I had an aversion to tofu. Having tofu in a dish where it is not meant as a substitute for something else changed my perspective on the protein completely. This is my favorite use for tofu.

Even though I did not grow up eating Japanese food, this dish tastes like home to me. The suppleness of the tofu, the chewy meatiness of the beef, the silky, salty, tanginess of the sauce that permeates all the other elements, coupled with the firm stickiness of the rice, and the cool crisp of the pickles I tuck in along side make this an adventure for the taste buds. continue reading...

Speed bento tips from a busy American mom

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This is a guest post by Amy Vander Vorste of Avlor’s Imprints.

Are you sure you don’t have time to plan or pack a lunch? Speed tips are here to the rescue!

Bentos are “the in thing” in lunches right now and for good reason! They provide a great way to pack a nutritious meal while providing reasonable portions.

As an American mom, I was frustrated at what our school was providing as a “healthy” lunch. I love our elementary school, but I don’t have an ounce of affection for the lunch program. I’ll spare you the details - but lunches are 9 times out of 10 full of highly processed food. Milk is also pushed - but not just plain milk. There’s strawberry, chocolate, and cookies-and-cream sweetened versions. Yipes! I hope you find it as humorously ironic as I did that the school district sent home reminders that a pop, chips and a cookie don’t constitute a good lunch.

I want better for my children who need to learn and pay attention in school. Last year my son’s teacher mentioned to me that my son was having troubles paying attention in class. After I started packing nutritious lunches, my son’s attention problems virtually disappeared. Quality food may not be the answer for all attention problems, but it’s helped us tremendously! Squeezing time in to make a lunch is essential for my family.

I wondered how my son would handle taking lunches that are different from the ones his friends have. But he’s enjoying it and even asks to take chopsticks. His quote, “It’s awesome!” There’s positive attention over his lunches (and the chopsticks) from his classmates, and not much of the negative “Eww is that broccoli?” He’s becoming very conscious of what is good for him and what is not. Could a mom be more proud? continue reading...

Guest Posting on Just Bento

Periodically we send out a call for guest posters on Just Bento. Guest posting here is a chance to reach a large audience of bento enthusiasts, and gain exposure for your site or blog.

The guest posting guidelines are as follows: continue reading...

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Using bentos to deal with food sensitivities gracefully

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This is a guest post by niceties of Main-Main Masak-Masak, where she blogs about how she deals with her food intolerences and dietary preferences. I’ve been an admirer of her calm, elegant and very informative essays for quite a long time, so I’m really happy to have her on board as a guest blogger!

It was because of increasingly complex food sensitivities that I was motivated to learn more about cooking and bento culture, so as to be able to adapt recipes and to make my packed meals from home more appetising. The principles of bento culture go a long way in making our food-intolerance-friendly lunchboxes more tasty and attractive. Learning to be creative in those two areas is particularly important when one is faced with the limitations of food restrictions. Here is a quick guide to my approach to bento for special diets, summarising the key ideas I’ve mentioned across many different postings on my blog. continue reading...